Du Quoin

The Du Quoin Indians hold their first place trophy aloft. Du Quoin won the Class A state track title, the first state trophy ever for a Du Quoin girls team.

If they ever make another remake of “True Grit” the producers need to consider Gabby Alongi for the title role.

The diminutive junior turned in four gritty performances Saturday as the Du Quoin Indians wrapped up the Class A girls state track title.

In the 3,200-meter relay, the day’s first race, Alongi, Du Quoin’s anchor, got the baton in fourth or fifth place. She doggedly went about her business, running her race, steadily making up ground. And, at the end she had enough to pass another runner in the stretch, giving the Indians an important eight points.

Replay that scene three more times and that pretty much sums up Alongi’s day. To those of you unfamiliar with track, the 400 meters is basically a sprint around the track. It's gut-wrenching.

The 800? You basically get to sprint around the track twice.

In the 800 meters, Alongi kept herself at the front of the pack for most of the race. However, a couple runners started their kick with about 200 meters, briefly dropping Alongi to fourth.

There was no panic.

As she explained later, Alongi has experience in the 400 meters. She knew what was left in the tank. Refusing to deviate from her game plan, Alongi shifted into overdrive at the right moment, picking off two runners down the stretch.

Her second-place finish gave Du Quoin eight important points.

Fast forward about 90 minutes to the 400 meters.

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Stop me if you’ve heard this before – Alongi stayed near the front of the pack. She refused to budge from the game plan, stayed strong down the stretch, holding off a late challenge to finish second. Again, giving Du Quoin eight important points.

That’s a heckuva day for anyone, but there’s more.

With only the 1,600 relay remaining, Du Quoin sat atop the team standings by a slim 48-45 margin over The Latin School from Chicago. Of course, the Romans were also in the 1,600 relay finals.

But, this head-to-head matchup was no contest.

Senior Madison Davis ran a solid opening leg, getting the baton to Alongi’s younger sister, Grace, in second or third place. The younger Alongi, nursing a foot injury, blew the field away on her lap, giving Olivia Phillips a solid lead to work with.

Phillips, a freshman, not only held the lead, but extended it.

For all practical purposes, the race was over when Phillips and Gabby Alongi successfully completed the baton exchange. Although, with three-gut wrenching, lung-busting performances under her belt, it was reasonable to wonder if Alongi was running on fumes.

Short answer: No.

“I came here and I’ve gone second all day,” she said. “I wanted a gold one.”

When Alongi crossed the finish line about 58 seconds later, she was aware the Indians had wrapped up the state title. Her emotions sent her to the track momentarily, but she quickly remembered a thundering herd was on its way. She rolled off the track to safety and let the moment set in.

By running 1.5 miles under duress, Alongi put her stamp on the state title. That stamp had “Grit” written all over it.

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LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.


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